2017-10-19 / Sports

Suttons Bay revs up run game, wins big

Mikesell: 18 carries, 227 yards
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

SUTTONS BAY sophomore Lucas Mikesell breaks away from Forest Area defenders for a 15-yard touchdown, his third in the first half of a 53-0 home win. SUTTONS BAY sophomore Lucas Mikesell breaks away from Forest Area defenders for a 15-yard touchdown, his third in the first half of a 53-0 home win. The old ground-and-pound pedigree of the Suttons Bay football program is alive and well in the new 8-man era. Offensive linemen Ben Cox, Nick DeJong, Zach Morton, Seth Megill and Alex Aguilar made sure of it on Friday.

Lucas Mikesell rushed for 227 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries in Week 8 as Suttons Bay all but cemented its first-ever 8-man playoff berth with a 53-0 victory over visiting Fife Lake Forest Area.

The Norsemen (5-3, 4-3 Midwest) toted the rock 50 times for 392 rushing yards — 372 more than their opponent — and eight touchdowns.

“It’s fun to run the ball as well as we did,” Suttons Bay coach Dan Durkin said. “I know Lucas had the big night, but anyone we handed the ball off to was able to break off big runs. It shows the offensive line is doing a great job and, as the year goes on, all of our running backs have run harder and their vision has gotten so much better.”

Cam Knaub was the first Suttons Bay ball carrier to find the end zone, extending the pigskin across the plane with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter.

Mikesell got it going from there with touchdown runs of 39 yards, 9 yards and 15 yards to give Suttons Bay a 26-0 halftime lead.

Quarterback Evan Rohrback sandwiched two more touchdowns around a Caleb Smith score in the third quarter before Michael Loucks put the icing on the cake with 4:40 left in the fourth.

The team was just as strong defensively, limiting Forest Area (2-6, 1-6 Midwest) to 94 yards from scrimmage.

“We’ve come out and really played more physical offensively and defensively,” Durkin said. “It started toward the end of the Hale game, and it really started up front. Our defensive backs have played better, but it makes their job easier when our defensive linemen and our blitzing backers get pressure on the quarterback and stuff the run.

“When you stuff the run, you make teams predictable. It’s really been both the offensive and defensive lines.”

Bryce Opie, who appeared at quarterback on a handful of occasions in the first half, led defensively with nine tackles and a pair of pass breakups.

UP NEXT: Mesick

Home-field advantage will likely be on the line Friday as the Norsemen travel to Mesick for a showdown with coach Josh Crocker’s Bulldogs.

Crocker, a Suttons Bay graduate, said he looks forward to the matchup.

“They’re coming off an impressive win, and we’re coming off our own fairly impressive win,” said Crocker, who was in Suttons Bay to scout the Norsemen on Friday. “Based on the similar record, offensive outputs and defensive performances, I’m expecting an even game.”

Mesick (5-3, 5-1 West Michigan) has scored 290 points this season; Suttons Bay has scored 296. Mesick has given up 182 points this season; Suttons Bay has surrendered 180. The similarities don’t stop there, either.

Crocker said film of Suttons Bay shows a similar-looking offense that uses a number of different formations and shifts to keep opponents guessing.

Durkin seemed to agree.

“They do a lot of the things offensively similar to what we do,” Durkin said. “They’ve got some really good playmakers offensively and defensively. It should be interesting.”

Where do the teams rank in the 8-man playoff picture? Mesick is 25th in the state with 33.857 playoff points; Suttons Bay is 26th with 33.125.

Crocker, Bulldogs thriving in 8-man

Win or lose on Friday, coach Josh Crocker and members of the Mesick football program have earned the right to party like it’s 1999.

That’s because Crocker, a 2003 Suttons Bay graduate, has guided the Bulldogs to their first five-win season in 18 years.

“It’s huge,” said Crocker, who is in his fifth season at the helm. “Everyone’s really excited. It’s nice to hear kids, teachers and community members that aren’t necessarily connected to the program ask about it, talk about it and be excited for home games.”

Despite declining enrollment and a 28-125 record since 2000, the transition to 8-man football wasn’t welcomed by all in the Mesick community.

Some players from the 2016 team called it quits and, to make matters worse, the Bulldogs began the season 0-2 after a 64-38 loss to Central Lake and a 34-20 loss to Webberville.

Crocker’s players pulled positives from the losses, however, recognizing the 58 points they put up nearly matched their 2016 total of 69.

It all came together in Week 3 when Mesick hammered Baldwin 54-8.

“It was huge, to know that we were going to be able to put the pieces together and put together a fairly special season,” said Crocker, the son of longtime Suttons Bay Pop Warner coach Al Crocker. “It was one of those make-or-break moments. We were really lucky the kids worked hard and improved dramatically over the first three weeks of the season.

“A lot of people had their criticisms of 8-man football initially, but I think you’re seeing a lot of people warm up to it because these are small schools. We wouldn’t be having these kinds of seasons if we had an 11-man game. This is a great sport for our schools, and it’s going to be a great night to cap off a really good season.”

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